The 6th annual UIC workshop on railway freight noise reduction, held on Tuesday 23 November 2010 at UIC headquarters in Paris, was attended by more than 60 participants. The main aim of the workshop was to report on the progress in terms of incentives for silent freight vehicles at European level and concerning LL-block homologation. The conference was rounded off with additional talks on proximity issues in Canada, a description of the current UIC projects, an update on railway vibrations and a description of the STARDAMP Project. The presentations and the programme can be found on the UIC website (http://www.uic.org/spip.php?article2500). A short summary of some of the main points addressed during the workshop are as follows:
Incentives at European level: The EU has undertaken several studies over the past few years concerning incentives. The method of choice for the EU is noise differentiated track access charging (NDTAC). As part of the recast of the first railway package the EU is amending Directive 2001/14/EC to allow NDTAC. An expert group will propose practical solutions for their implementation. The railway sector has reservations concerning the implementation of NDTAC and therefore suggests there should be a level playing field between road and rail and that NDTAC should not weaken the railway sector. The complexity and administrative costs should be kept to a minimum. All in all the efforts must stay proportionate for all transport modes. Due to the complexity of the railway sector (e.g. wagon owners and operators are often not identical) there are also doubts about the effectiveness of NDTAC as an incentive. An alternative proposal could consist of direct funding first and NDTAC later. Additionally another incentive, the TSI noise (mostly regulating new rolling stock), was modified slightly, basically by simplifying certain test conditions.
Progress in LL-block homologation: Several working groups at UIC are looking at the issue of composite brake blocks, including brake block contours and position, winter properties, light-weight brake rigging as well as attending regular composite brake user meetings. The EuropeTrain will start operations on 6 December 2010 and will allow extensive testing of LL-blocks, in particular new contours and brake block positions. Two projects in Germany: Leiser Rhein (including the retrofitting of vehicles especially in the Rhine Valley) and LäGiV (development of improved K- and LL-blocks) will support UIC’s efforts. All in all LL-brake blocks are proving to be a promising noise reducing measure; however they still require further improvement before they can be used on a large scale in Europe. The further tests such as the EuropeTrain are required to solve problems of “equivalent conicity” and to better estimate the LCC of the system.
Proximity issues: Canadian Railways have had considerable success in managing proximity issues including noise. The programme builds on increasing awareness, establishing guidelines and creating a framework of dispute resolution.
UIC noise projects: UIC has two groups dedicated to noise: The network noise and a core group. These groups share information on railway noise abatement and manage additional noise projects. Current projects include studies on bearable noise limits as well as on the noise annoyance correction factor (noise bonus).
Railway vibrations: Vibrations are becoming more and more of an issue. Technically vibrations are more difficult to address than airborne noise. Two projects are currently underway: exchange of information on under sleeper pads and the EU 7th framework programme project RIVAS (railway induced vibration abatement solutions).
Stardamp: This project is a Franco-German collaboration to facilitate the development of rail and wheel absorbers in Europe.
The conclusion of the workshop was that progress was indeed being made and that many projects and players are involved. It is important, however, not to lose sight of the aim, i.e. reducing the noise of the European freight fleet. In order to achieve this aim, it is necessary to bring players and projects together to prevent work proceeding in divergent directions. It is necessary for an entity such as UIC to keep an overview of all activities.